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I follow The 8-bit Guy[a] on YouTube and I greatly enjoy it. I also eulogized Jack Tramiel, ending with 64k is enough for anyone. At the same time, I upgraded my PC to have 64GB of memory, a faster processor, faster storage, and a graphics card capable of producing output that a seven-year-old and eight-bit me would not thought possible.

So what is the allure with retrocomputing? Do I just enjoy watching people suffer? Not really. While I enjoy "fail" videos and has the same capacity for schadenfreude as the next guy, that gets old fast. I think it's more like when I watch Berm Peak's Seth send a trail on a $1000 carbon balance bike[b]: it's amazing to see people overcome restrictions you didn't think could be overcome and do things you didn't think were possible.

Retrocomputing also has the rosy shimmer of the sense of wonder I had as a kid when I played with my C64. Back when computers were understandable and things were simple... ...or, rather, when they were understandable and simple because you couldn't do very much on one and anything beyond bare basics was either brutally difficult or incredibly annoying. Actually, even the basics were annoying. Cursor keys? The inverted-T layout hadn't even been invented yet[c]. Keyboard ergonomics wasn't a thing. Neither was screen resolution - 40 by 20 characters of blue on blue was all you got. And then, you only had 64k for everything - source code, assembler, binaries and resources. Compiler? Forget it. You'd need a dual-machine setup[d]. IDEs were not, and code auto-complete something a human generation off. Storage was tape, and version control[e] something that only existed in your dreams.

Nowadays retrocomputing is mostly running code on old platforms. Development and debugging is done on high-powered workstations running emulated versions of the retro platform in an integrated development environment[f], as this is the only way to make it somewhat palatable. I believe this is also a reason why the quality of games on the C64 keeps[g] going[h] up[i].

But what about learning to code? Isn't it better to learn to write programs on a simpler machine? I'd argue against that. Programming is very much about understanding problem domains and using computers to solve problems in them, much more about general concepts and less about platform hardware specifics. I think someone who knows how to code can find it very rewarding and fun to apply those skills to the harsh constraints of a retro platform, but it's not where I would start. An analogy can be drawn with writing stories - learn to write correctly, clearly, and well structured before going off on stylistic tangents or engaging in constrained writing.

That said, when great skills meet deep platform knowledge, a magic ensues that only people of knowing can truly appreciate, for example as in Next Level by Performers.